The absolute basics of self care are to me the starting point of recovery from depression. I’m talking BASIC BASIC BASIC. Water, food and sleep. If you are anything like me when you’re poorly, then you already know what I mean. At best, I (genuinely) forget to drink water, eat properly and try to keep to a regular sleep routine. At worst, I can’t even convince myself that I’m worth the effort of making a meal. Of course, remembering to look after myself and then having the strength to fight that horrible feeling of resistance are completely different battles and take different strategies, but that’s for another time….
This post is really about starting and maintaining those basic elements of self care as a starting point for recovery from any period of illness, but they specifically relate to learning how to look after myself again (from what felt like scratch) after months and month of hardcore depression and anxiety.
Someway along my trek through the vast grey Savannah that is a depressive episode, I realised that I might have more chance of remembering (or convincing myself) to do the very basics of self care if I wrote them on my to- do list, and I do love a list. At first I felt ridiculous and pathetic writing ‘water, food, sleep’ everyday, but it did help remind me to take care of myself a teeny bit more. Then I realised that it would probably help me feel like I was achieving more if I could mark off each individual meal and glass of water, so I did just that.
I drew eight little check boxes next to ‘Water’ to remind myself to have eight glasses of water every day, and ticked a box for every glass I drank. Three little check boxes next to food so that I could tick off breakfast, lunch and dinner individually and one box for sleep. It sounds so simple, but those little checkboxes began to really help me feel like I had a little bit of control over what was happening with my body again, gave me some focus for the day and later, became a really helpful tool for tracking my progress. I honestly cannot say enough for how much this ‘technique’ (if you can even call it that!) has made such a massive difference in how and how soon I’ve started to get better and I hope they help make things a little easier for you too.
And it’s totally manageable, you just write those three magic words down and every time you manage to drink a glass of water, have something to eat and have a good sleep (whatever that means for you) then you can check your box. At the end of the day you can see how much success you’ve had today and maybe (just maybe) think about what could be done to make tomorrow even more successful. Planning my basics out for the day and ticking them off when I’ve achieved them is super helpful, but of course it doesn’t remove the giant lump in my throat when I try to swallow actual food and it doesn’t make falling asleep at night any easier, but it’s got to start somewhere, right?
I would love to hear any ideas and techniques you have for managing the basics of self-care when you’re really unwell and until next time, keep fighting the good fight my friends.